Zimby Mojo by Devious Weasel Games Review by Maurice Fitzgerald
Publisher: Devious Weasel Games
Game Designer: Jim Felli
Artwork: Jim Felli, Tani Pettit and Naomi Robinson
Ages: 14 and up
Playing Time: 20-120 minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $59.99
Coopetition in a mixed up jungle
After the success of Shadows of Malice, designer Jim Felli takes us on quite a different journey in his second title. Taking some familiar concepts and mashing them together to bring a fresh take while leading us into the dark and twisted world of mystical shaman, feisty cannibals and a Blood King.
Welcome to the bizarre world of Zimby Mojo.
One Crown to rule them all
As shaman, you have lived under the rule of the Blood King far too long and have decided to overthrow him. Together, you and the other shaman have decided to rise up and send your Zimbies out to seek their way into the temple, kill the king and take his crown for your own. The only problem is, that cooperation will only go so far because every shaman wants the crown for themselves!
Now you’re likely wondering, what the hell are Zimbies anyway Moe? Well, Zimbies are cannibalistic creatures that you as the shaman control with your magic. Casting your mojo causes these muscular little buggers to do your bidding with a frenetic glee that is both scary and comedic.
I envision Zimbies as life-size versions of Karen Black’s nasty little Zuni doll from that 70’s late night classic short from Trilogy of Terror, The Doll. These vile, nasty creatures aren’t the sharpest pencils in the box but they are quite adept at violence. Add in a touch of the Minions and you begin to form a mental picture of the antics that these things get into. Trust me when I say that you’ll never be bored with these guys around, especially in the latter stages when everyone is chasing the crown holder around the board.
The first act of Zimby Mojo is fairly straightforward, cooperative and nicely tactical. It forces players to cooperate in order to navigate a way into the temple, past roaming Thug’s while facing debilitating rituals of the Blood King. This need for cooperation is what sets up the frenzied finish of this two act play.
Control of your Zimbies is handled through mojo, a finite mystical resource that must be managed efficiently, along with your hand of cards. The power of mojo compels your Zimbies to move or attack while also fueling powerful magic through scrolls.
Every shaman has four mojo at their disposal but more can always be gained if you’re willing to chow down on some Zimby flesh. Cannibalizing a couple of your own Zimbies gains you as the shaman, extra mojo but Zimbies can also cannibalize fellow tribesmen in their column to gain fight and spell casting bonuses. Didn’t I tell you that this game was a bit bizarre?
This gives you a resource and worker placement style challenge throughout the game. Do you want to keep those Zimbies in play or are they worth sacrificing for a short term gain? You can get Zimbies back from the ‘far shore’ but each spawn costs 3 mojo!
As you move Zimbies around the board you build columns, stacking your own Zimbies in with those of other players. Columns can support up to 9 Zimbies from 3 different players. This creates some unique interplay in the first half of the game, as players work in concert towards a common goal before the backstabbing begins!
What makes this column play interesting is that while this is a communal force, everyone who owns a Zimby in the column can control the column on their turn. Having more Zimbies in the column does not provide you with any extra benefits until after the Blood King is dead, but even that still rests in the hands of fate, as you will see below.
A larger column provides greater strength, both offensively and defensively and you’ll need both to battle your way through the King’s thugs and of course to defeat the big bad himself. That strength does come with a price; the bigger the column gets, the slower it moves and it can be agonizingly slow with a maxed out column.
Playing this cooperative aspect smartly, players will benefit by moving small groups of their Zimbies towards the temple and through the teleporters to be better positioned to create columns. Getting into the temple takes a balance of finesse, magic and brutality as you maneuver and fight your way through roaming patrols of Thugs.
The patrol AI is sets out a simple path and is driven by dice rolls but is effective at keeping the Thugs a persistent threat. Sometimes they even creating columns of their own! Defeating them only takes them off the board for the turn before they re spawn on the refresh.
Aside from battling through Thugs, the Blood King is not happy with your treason and will cast more than just aspersions on those who were once his loyal shaman. A randomized series of rituals will hamper you in your quest to defeat the Blood King and they can be worrisome.
He may force every shaman to eat a random number of Zimbies on their tribal board, or deplete your Zimbies for the turn, thus causing them to lose any chance at movement. Thankfully, the King needs to replenish his power by moving back into the blood mist, so you’ll deal with this about every other turn.
This really adds to the tension as new rituals are unveiled and activated. It can also break your carefully laid strategy, forcing you to regroup and catch back up to the other Zimbies lest you be left out of the chance for the crown. No one ever said it was going to be easy.
To balance things out a little, you have some magic of your own to try and counter these setbacks by way of using scrolls. These bits of magic come in three flavors; Rituals, Incantations and Witcheries. Each offers an assortment of boosts against Thugs, the Blood King and even against other Zimbies.
Scrolls can allow you to move faster, hit harder, mitigate wounds or even weaken a fellow shaman. Each scroll has a mojo cost and an incantation requires you to ‘spend’ a Zimby by placing them on the card to perform the incantation. Once removed, the incantation stops.
All of this lends to a fun cooperative experience as players strategize together on how best to spend mojo, use scrolls and plot moves of their collective columns. All the while, wily players are keeping some cards in hand to use against their fellow shaman once the crown is in play!
Once the Blood King has been defeated in combat, fate determines which Zimby comes out with it from the big dog pile that ensues. All of the Zimby tokens that were in the column that defeated the King go into a bag called the Bag ‘O Fate and one is pulled to randomly determine ownership. Then the fun begins. From here on out, it’s a race and chase to the owning shaman’s tribal board.
This second act really needs the yakety sax as a soundtrack for it because it takes on aspects of old Keystone Cops movies. Zimbies run haphazardly across the board, sometimes running into obstacles or Thugs in their maniacal determination to bring the prize back to their shaman. The other tribes do their best to run down the one little minion with the crown as fellow Zimbies try to slow the stampede of mayhem, generally leading to some humorous circumstances.
Making things even a little more humorous and deadly, you can sacrifice a pair of Zimbies to create a zombie Zimby. This zombie is controlled by you on your turn but otherwise shambles across the board on his own, towards the nearest living creature. This could even be you, so be mindful of how you set them up in relation to your own moves or you could be zombie chow!
Being the crown bearer is trying and hazardous but does have its merits. Your movement is painfully slow in the first turn after taking the crown. This decreases in the two following turns, but acts well as a literal catch-up mechanic. The benefit to carrying the crown is that you gain bonuses against obstacles and Witcheries, and can also cast the King’s rituals.
While the one crown bearer is off running for their lives, the rest of the players continue in cooperative mode because everyone is working together to get their hands on the crown. Adding to that, the King’s Thugs are still a force to be reckoned with as their patrol routes expand to the entire board once the King is dead. If they get their hand on the crown, they will carry it back to the blood mist and create another King. Then you start act one all over again.
This can also present one of the games very few flaws; the chase can drag on a bit too long and even longer if a new King is created. If a Thug can win the crown back and create another King, you’re back to square one. While chasing each other across the board and having the crown switch hands multiple times does make for an exciting and comedic romp, having to start all over again isn’t as much fun.
Once the crown bearer gets the crown to his tribal board, the game is over and that shaman is now the new Blood King. Until the next time of course!
Pass or Grab?
If you like your games a little bit strange, Jim Felli definitely delivers one here with Zimby Mojo, bringing us another wild romp in a wacky world that begs for more plays. There’s a bit of everything for gamers here, cooperative play, competitive play, combat, a bit of magic, resource management and a healthy dose of treachery.
I enjoy playing the game and while the gameplay is fast, it does consume a couple of hours to play. With a full table of eight players, the game can easily run 2-3 hours and even longer if the crown is lost to the Thugs. It gives me what I like in a game, a bit of cooperative play where everyone works towards a common goal before turning on each other like a pack of wild dogs, er um I mean, Zimbies.
For the average game group size of up to 5 players, Zimby Mojo plays really solid and comes in under two hours on average. With more players there’s a better spread of strategy and group dymanics because people will tend to split into two teams, subconsciously. The thought is that it is better to have the extra one or two players for a strong column and easier to deal with just one or two direct competitors in the Bag ‘O Fate.
This works well on both sides as the team who doesn’t get to the Blood King can set themselves up, cooperatively or individually, as spoilers. Hopefully setting themselves up in good blocking positions to head off the potential crown bearer. If they can set themselves up right, they can steal that crown and haul the mail back to their tribal board for the win, with less sweat and stress expended. Not to mention, they’ve put fewer Zimbies at risk and left them on the board to track down the crown!
As you can see, there are multiple angles at work and I’ve only covered a few. There are great bits of strategy to be played out here! If you enjoy strategy games that bring opportunities for bold moves, daring risks and smart play, Zimby Mojo is for you.
There is a nice touch more art here in this one than in Shadow of Malice and the artist conceptions of the Zimbies is both beautifully done and scary in equal measure. The board is a pretty simple and easily allows you to see good strategies to employ but remember, those Blood King rituals and scrolls of your fellow Zimbies will have an impact on your plans!
The game is currently available for purchase, direct from the publisher on the Devious Weasel website. Be sure to check this one out!
Company Website: http://deviousweasel.com/
Company Twitter: https://twitter.com/DeviousWeaselGM
Note: A review copy of this game was provided to me.